When a very gregarious, energetic three year old little boy walked into our lives, I swear, our well-organized, minimalist house jumped to life. Suddenly, toys and books were scattered everywhere, colors and Legos appeared from nowhere, and the beds that were made with precision now were constantly askew. No matter how much I tidied, my house was always a wreck, and I was always exhausted from constantly cleaning.
With my hair on fire one Saturday morning and our son begging for attention, I rang a friend, desperate for help and asked her, “How do you keep your house so neat and tidy? I literally pick one room up and no sooner walk out and can hear things jumping from their place.”
The advise she gave me FOREVER changed our lives.
“Give your son 15 minutes of uninterrupted attention, and he will give you 45 minutes of freedom.”
Fifteen minutes. She sounded like a Geico commercial.
But I followed her advice immediately and saw the exact thing she was talking about. He simply needed attention. In the first 15 minutes, I sat on the floor in his room and played, as soon as the 15 minutes was up, I modeled picking up toys and voila, he followed suit. I instantly had created a miniature organizer! He went on to play something else and I went to clean the bathrooms.
Forty-five minutes later, I walked back into his room, sat down again and began playing for 15 minutes. When the timer went off, I put up the toys I was playing with up, as did he, and off to the kitchen I went to unload the dishwasher and reload. I also had time to sweep and run a mop then returned to his room for 15 minutes.
This went on and on the rest of the day and for days to come.
That was 13 years ago.
Today, thanks to that advise, I discovered I wasn’t simply buying myself freedom with those 15 minutes, I was helping to create a child who learned how to play and problem solve independently, he also came to realize that if something was too difficult to handle at that moment, help would come soon enough, but he had to be patient. Through those 15 minutes of my undivided attention, we bonded, we modeled positive behavior, we learned to trust one another’s predictability, and my house was eventually in order regularly!
Routines, structures, and boundaries helped our son develop positive behavior and have realistic expectations of time, and people.
Those same routines, structures, and boundaries allowed me to simply be an engaged mom consistently. My children won’t remember how well I folded their laundry, or that the cleaning solution I used made our floors shine like the top of the Chrysler building, but they will remember that I had a deep love for playing with them, reading to them, cuddling them, building forts with them, dancing and singing with them and that I always knew THE. BEST hiding spots in our house.